As a real estate tycoon and former reality TV star—as opposed to a career politician—Trump may change the way presidents communicate with the public. During his 17-month run for the presidency, Trump was famous for middle-of-the-night, off-the-cuff tweeting, often to attack his opponents. He’s sent more than 34,000 tweets, enabling him to bypass the mainstream media, which he distrusts, and speak directly to the American people.
If this continues after Trump takes office, it would represent a massive shift in how the president communicates his policies and plans to the world.
“Historically, great care has been taken to make sure that presidents don’t misspeak,” says Kathleen Hall Jamieson of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. That, she explains, is because “every presidential sentence is potentially consequential. Everyone is trying to read his words for clues: Congress, the press, the public, and especially world leaders.”
Twitter plans to transfer @POTUS, the president’s official Twitter account, from Obama to Trump. It’s not clear what will happen to the president-elect’s current account, @realDonaldTrump, where he has almost 17 million followers.
If Trump does continue to tweet from the White House, he would join presidents like Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, who each made use of a new technology to reach the public, says Lindsay Hoffman of the Center for Political Communication at the University of Delaware.
“Much like with FDR and radio and JFK using televised press conferences as his medium for communicating with the public,” she says, “I think Trump’s use of Twitter is the next revolution in how presidents communicate with citizens.”